When Will Rory McIlroy Return? What’s Next?
Rory McIlroy’s had a year to forget. Or should we say a year he’s unlikely to forget – apart from the golf that is. But what’s next for Rory? When will he return to golf? And when can we scoff at his betting odds again?
(Photo source – Wikimedia)
Rumour has it he’s already signed up for the Abu Dhabi Championship at the end of January, which is plenty of time to get himself fit and iron out the problems in his game that are denying him a win…of any kind.
You just know that because he hasn’t managed to kick on from his four-majors and dominate golf – being the pro he is – it’s eating him up inside.
Remember it was only twelve months ago – from a similarly fruitless season – that the Northern Irishman won the FedExCup. And yet, could anyone have predicted the direction of the roller-coaster of a year that followed?
We think not.
Fellow Pros, commentators, and fans alike, (and probably Rory himself) had the feeling this was going to be his big year and in terms of hitting the headlines, it certainly was.
Just not in the way that we had expected.
It seems somewhat churlish to comment that his OWGR of #8 is a blemish on his record, but that’s exactly what it is. This is, after all, the player who spent 95 weeks as the OWGR #1 – and was expected to stay that way for a lot longer.
The strange thing is, even Rory doesn’t seem to know when he’ll be back to his best. In July, just after a final round 67 to finish T4 in The Open he said:
“It’s a step in the right direction and a lot better. I wish I could’ve had that start back [he was +5 thru his first nine holes] but I’m just proud of how I held it together and battled.”
Before concluding with this bold statement:
“I feel like with the way my game is I’ll definitely have a great chance at the PGA. I feel like three years has been too long for a Major.”
So imagine what a surprise it must have been, just three months later, to find himself a further four places down the OWGR pecking order?
But in fairness to Rory, he’s had his fair share of bad breaks in 2017. A rib injury, followed by a back injury, and missing out on the build-up to the Masters – the first and most-important-grand-slam-completing-major – all took their toll on his play.
And to top it all off, he had his wedding to plan.
I don’t care what any man says, a wedding on the horizon can certainly play havoc with your focus. However, be that as it may, there’s no doubt that Erica Stoll has been a calming influence on the mercurial Irishman. That may be something he’ll need more of in the near future.
Although BetStars had Rory at 6/1 odds as the favourite to win the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship this month, we all know that lately, odds mean nothing where Rory is concerned. You simply don’t know which McIlroy is going to show up on any given day.
And that includes any of the four days of a tournament!
His year has been a one of consistent inconsistency, more apparent due to the extremely high standards he has already set for himself.
To another golfer, 6 Top 10 finishes and a T4 at The Open might be a decent year. Not so for Rory.
It begs the question: What next?
If Rory is going to bring himself back into contention for the No. 1 spot, then he simply has to iron out those inconsistencies in his game.
“My iron play and my Wedge play…Those are things that I’ve really struggled with this year and feel like they are going in the right direction” said Rory after the British Masters.
But his stats show a different story:
Last season Rory managed to be only 140th in Strokes Gained Putting, compared to Jordan Spieth who was 98 places higher with .177 less shots taken on the green. In Greens In Regulation Rory was 96th. That’s 92 places behnd Jordan Spieth and 5% less greens hit.
Those two differences alone accounted for a season performance which left Spieth earning over $7,000,000 more than Rory and comfortably scoring three-zip in the win-column.
While we’ve seen a lot less of his temper lately, he’s still got that air of a man on the edge. Losing his caddie – along with Nike pulling out of the game – was a
tough break good break tough break for Rory, making it seem more like a matter of mental rather than physical ability holding him back.
We all know he’s still got bucket-loads of talent but has he got the mentality to go with it?
When he was setting the world alight, he hadn’t a care in the world and success was easy. But like they say, the true measure of a man is how he handles pressure, and poor Rory seems to have buckled lately.
Many feel that he needs to regain the mental toughness he had before, but the truth is that he most likely never had the sort of mental toughness attributed to him.
He handled the pressure of the game well, but maybe only because he had no outside pressures.
Things have changed; he’s married, lost faith in the relationship with his caddie, had a few ‘management’ issues, experienced momentum-sapping injuries and been subject to enormous scrutiny.
Hell, we’re doing it even now!
So, does Rory need a complete emotional overhaul?
Once he gets his singular focus back, removes his injuries and makes that first foray into the winner’s circle, he’ll be guaranteed to return to (some) degree of dominance.
Can we see that happening soon?
Perhaps we’ll have to wait until the New Year. But it’ll happen one day and when that day comes, McIlroy will destroy the competition.